W.L. Ripley is the author of two critically-acclaimed series of crime novels — four books featuring ex-professional football player Wyatt Storme and four books about ex-Secret Service agent Cole Springer. His latest novel is Storme Warning, a stunning new mystery/thriller that we’re publishing in February. We will also be re-releasing Ripley’s other books through 2015 and early 2016.
Want to sell your book? Here are the major mistakes to avoid…
This is a profession, not a hobby. Act like an adult when you’re dealing with editors (who are overworked and the best people in the business). Don’t write nasty letters when your work is rejected. Nobody likes a whiner. Rejection is good for you. It makes you work harder. Pay attention to your craft, work to become the best writer you possibly can become, and the rest of it will happen.
FAILURE TO FINISH MANUSCRIPT AND SEND IT IN
Beginners are forever writing the great American Novel. And writing it and writing it. I call it the “fear of success syndrome”. Beginning writers erect these fantasies about best-seller lists and million-dollar advances and are afraid the dream will terminate when they write “The End” on a novel. Thoreau says if “you have built castles in the air, now put the foundations under them”. Write it and send it in. Then write another one. And another one. You’ll never get anything published if you don’t finish. Writing “The End” on a book is tougher than you think.
WRITING ABOUT YOURSELF
Few of us lead interesting enough lives to get somebody to cough up $22.50. If you were that interesting you’d be on the evening news. Or Oprah. Writing a thinly-veiled autobiography is literary masturbation and should not be attempted by beginners, or writers with any sense. There are some famous authors who do so, but few do it well.
WAITING FOR THE ‘MUSE’ OR THE ‘MOOD’ TO STRIKE
These are the same people who believe in writer’s block. Excuses for laziness. I can come up with a dozen excuses for not writing. Excuses are like armpits; we all have them and they all stink. If I waited for the elusive “muse” I’d never get done. Grow up.
USING SUBSTITUTES FOR “SAID”
Forget words like “he exclaimed”, “she replied”, in dialogue. He said, she said, enough said.
Modifiers are like candy; too many of them makes everyone sick. Wordy and flowery is boring. Write it, don’t beat it to death. And don’t describe everything in every scene in detail. It’s tedious. Mark Twain says, “Eschew surplusage of wordage.” If you don’t know what he means you’re in the wrong business.
OVERUSING THE THESAURUS (and not using dictionary enough)
Use the right word, not a close relative. Forget the thesaurus. Know the meaning of words. Keep the dictionary close.
NOT READING ENOUGH
Read whenever possible. Read in your genre. Read the great writers and the classics. Only voracious readers become accomplished writers.
DISMISSING GRAMMAR SKILLS AS “UNIMPORTANT”
Know sentence structure and how to punctuate. Learn the importance of rythm, tone, alliteration, and word positioning for emphasis. Stylists like Vonnegut and Robbins break the rules, but you can bet they know them.
FAILURE TO REWRITE OR EDIT
It’s a book, not a grocery list. Get it right. Get it perfect. Polish it. Make it shine. Make it sing. I rewrite all of the Wyatt Storme novels three or four time each. If you’re not willing to do that, then collect baseball cards instead. Spare overworked editors the grief.
And one final piece of advice — DON’T TAKE TOO MUCH ADVICE — There are people who are carried away by the winds of whatever article or workshop they attend. Or by the criticism of a friend or relative. Be wary of any advice you receive (including mine). Develop a good B.S. meter and keep it turned on. Have some faith in your own judgement. You must have passion about your work or no one else will.
So, why are you sitting here reading this article? Write something.